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Liberty Men Place 2nd, Women 3rd at Big South XC

October 31, 2015  Spartanburg, S.C.  RSS
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The Liberty men's cross country team finished as the 2015 Big South runner-up.

The Liberty men's cross country team finished as the 2015 Big South runner-up.

The Liberty men's team finished second and the Lady Flames came in third at the 2015 Big South Cross Country Championships, contested on a picture-perfect Saturday for running at the Milliken Center.

Paced by Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year Jeremie Bourget's third-place finish, the Liberty men's squad finished runner-up for the second straight year. With 42 points, the Flames finished inside the top two at this meet for the 13th consecutive season. Campbell captured its first-ever Big South men's cross country team title with 31 points, led by freshman Lawrence Kipkoech's meet-record 8K time of 23:39.69.

Big South Freshman of the Year Ednah Kurgat came in second overall in the women's 5K, helping the Lady Flames place third of 11 teams with 58 points. Only 11 tallies separated the top three women's squads, with High Point (47 points) edging Coastal Carolina (51) for its second consecutive conference crown. Coastal Carolina senior Letitia Saayman won her second Big South women's cross country individual title with a course-record time of 16:49.44.

Men's 8K Championship Recap
Bourget served as the Flames' No. 1 runner for the first time in 2015 on Saturday, finishing third of 78 competitors with an 8K time of 24:35.04. It marked the second career Big South cross country third-place finish for the redshirt junior from Canada (also 2013).

Bourget was voted Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year thanks to his 3.94 GPA as a health promotion major.

The second of four freshmen to place inside the top 10 on Saturday, Azaria Kirwa crossed the line in fifth place with a time of 24:38.40 for his first career All-Big South honor.

Redshirt junior Josh Showalter garnered All-Big South laurels for the second consecutive season, finishing ninth in 24:56.55.

Cameron Francis continued his breakthrough sophomore season, becoming the fourth Flame on the All-Big South team. He came in 11th in 25:05.36, just ahead of defending conference champion Jeff LaCoste of High Point.

James Zentmeyer rounded out the Flames' five scorers in 14th place overall and fifth among freshmen. He finished his first Big South Championship race in 25:37.57.

The Flames showcased their team depth on Saturday in Spartanburg, with all 10 of their runners finishing inside the top 26. Also competing were redshirt freshman Louis Paone (19th place, personal-best 26:00.08), redshirt sophomore Luke Jelen (20th, personal-best 26:02.82), sophomore Graham Hansel (22nd, 26:03.69), senior Sam Hibbs (23rd, 26:06.49) and freshman Jack Tidball (26th, 26:26.02).

Women's 5K Championship Recap
Kurgat continued her sterling freshman year by placing second out of 86 women's runners in 17:12.97. That marked the fastest time any Lady Flame has ever run at this meet and the second-fastest 5K overall in program history, following Kurgat's school-record 17:11.1 effort at the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational on Sept. 26.

Kurgat was named Big South Freshman of the Year, after she had captured the same honor at both the 2015 Big South Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field Championships. She became the first Lady Flame to be tabbed Big South Freshman of the Year for cross country since Dacia Bushman in 2007.

Saturday's race marked the first time a freshman had served as the Lady Flames' No. 1 runner at the Big South Cross Country Championships since Danielle Jordan in 2004. The youth movement did not stop with Kurgat, as classmates Torree Scull, Anna Van Wyk and Aryn Embretson were Liberty's next three finishers. No other conference freshmen finished inside the top 25 on Saturday, besides the Lady Flames' quartet.

Scull (personal-best 18:12.77) and Van Wyk (personal-best 18:19.44) finished back-to-back in 10th and 11th place,  respectively, each earning All-Big South medals.

Van Wyk's high school teammate Embretson lopped over a minute off of her previous 5K best on Saturday, crossing the line in 18:42.98 for 16th place.

Sophomore Alyssa Karle also made a big breakthrough, clocking 18:50.85 for 19th place, immediately ahead of junior teammate Terrill Zentmeyer, who came in 20th for the second consecutive year in a personal-best 18:52.07.

Redshirt senior Caroline Parris recorded the best finish of her four career appearances at this meet, coming in 23rd in 18:56.40, as the seventh Lady Flame to crack 19 minutes on the day.

The Lady Flames' final three runners each added to the personal-best parade, including junior Kat Bouton (25th place, 19:01.30), junior Lindsey Bray (29th, 19:05.57) and freshman Kammi Kurtz (41st, 19:27.88). Bouton, who boasts a 3.95 GPA as a Teaching English as a Second Language major, was named to the Big South All-Academic Team.

A number of Liberty runners will wrap up their 2015 cross country campaign at the Hokie Open, Friday at Virginia Tech's Buford Meredith Cross Country Course in Blacksburg, Va. The men's 6K will begin at 4:30 p.m., followed by the women's 4K at 5:10.

Meanwhile, the top seven Flames and Lady Flames will take next weekend off from competition in preparation for the 2015 NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships. The meet will take place at Panorama Farms in Earlysville, Va., on Nov. 13, beginning at noon.

Final Men's Team Scores
1) Campbell – 31
2) Liberty – 42
3) High Point – 48
4) Radford – 120
5) UNC Asheville – 137
6) Winthrop – 216
7) Coastal Carolina – 218
8) Presbyterian – 228
9) Longwood – 240
10) Gardner-Webb – 243
11) Charleston Southern - 309

Final Women's Team Scores
1) High Point – 47
2) Coastal Carolina – 51
3) Liberty – 58
4) UNC Asheville – 108
5) Radford – 157
6) Campbell – 174
7) Winthrop – 199
8) Gardner-Webb – 203
9) Presbyterian – 268
10) Longwood – 293
11) Charleston Southern - 295

Men's Runner of the Year
Lawrence Kipkoech, Campbell

Women's Runner of the Year
Letitia Saayman, Coastal Carolina

Men's Freshman of the Year
Lawrence Kipkoech, Campbell

Women's Freshman of the Year
Ednah Kurgat, Liberty

Men's Coach of the Year
Michael Kelly, Campbell

Women's Coach of the Year
Jenna Wrieden, High Point

Men's Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Jeremie Bourget, Liberty

Women's Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Julia Zautcke, High Point

Men's All-Academic Team
Mason Holt, Campbell
Caleb Breeden, Charleston Southern
Elijah Shaw, Coastal Carolina
Christopher Lile, Gardner-Webb
Vinny Todaro, High Point
Jeremie Bourget, Liberty
Russell Reed, Longwood
Reid McCandless, Presbyterian
Brady Guertin, Radford
Caleb Smith, UNC Asheville
Blake White, Winthrop

Women's All-Academic Team
Kelsey Rea, Campbell
Kaitlyn Keene, Charleston Southern
Kyla van Graan, Coastal Carolina
Gabrielle Cortese, Gardner-Webb
Julia Zautcke, High Point
Kat Bouton, Liberty
Gracie Piekarski, Longwood
Abby Waldron, Presbyterian
Courtney Rice, Radford
Sarah Heisner, UNC Asheville
Tristan Langley, Winthrop